In an attritional day, after the fireworks of the previous, Amla played a captain’s innings to keep South Africa in the game. On a pitch that offered the bowler of pace, swing or spin no succour, England must have rued the two chances of catching Amla that Anderson and Compton failed to hold.
Barry Richards, who must be the greatest batsman to play only 4 tests, came into the box. I asked him whether it was true that county bowling was so easy for him that he met it with the bat blade side on. He replied that Clive Rice of Nottinghamshire challenged him that if he could survive an over from him with a side-on bat he would buy him dinner. He did. It was that sort of day when that you had time for anecdotes. Showing off my knowledge of South African cricket to Garth le Roux, I asked him if Tiger Lance was the only double Springbok as he played international rugby. He did not know but told me the story of how Tiger was a rep for a South African brewery. After play he was invited for a beer and someone complained the lager was cloudy. He replied
“What do you expect for a rand, a thunderstorm?”
Given the passive play, my neighbour – a delightful man from Cheltenham, who cared patiently for his disabled brother – and I rued the lack of spinners and reminisced on the sixties, a decade which produced the likes of Titmus, Allen, Illingworth, Underwood, Birkenshaw and globally Gibbs and Bedi.
In the evening in the hotel there was a q & a with Sir Ian Botham, Graham Gooch, Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Boucher. Ex-players do not as of right make good commentators or analysts but I was impressed by these four who had convictions about the game expressed forcefully. One said DRS stood for “Don’t Review Sachin”, reflecting the dominance of the iconic players in Indian cricket.
The Proteas now have to survive 6 sessions with 16 wickets in hand and England have to remove Amla twice. England must hope for lesser resistance from the younger members of the opposition. There are cracks in the pitch but if it stays this way then the smart money must be on a draw.